Give Android a tryWith all the hype surrounding the iPhone and the fact that its AppStore seems to be doing so well, it's easy to forget that there's another new mobile Operating System in town. Android is Google's version of a next generation mobile OS, and while it's not actually available on any mobile handsets at the moment, you can still try it out yourself for free.

The Android emulator allows you to do almost everything you would do on a real device running the OS. You can have a peek at the operating system environment, test out the default applications and install new ones, simulate phone calls and access the Web. Here is a guide to running and installing the Android emulator, courtesy of our friends at OnSoftware Spain.

1. Download the SDK

The first step is to download the emulator, which is included as part of the Android SDK. You can download it from Softonic, or from the official development page on Google.

2. Unpack the Archive

Once downloaded, unpack the Zip file into a folder somewhere on your hard drive, such as: "C:\Program Files\Android SDK".  Open the folder and you'll see that it contains a whole bunch of files and folders. What we're interested in at the moment is the file "emulator.exe", which you'll find in the "Tools" folder. Open this by double-clicking on it.

3. Running the emulator

After opening the emulator you'll be able to play around with its various built-in features. You can surf the Web using the Browser, try out the phone functionality using the Dialer, or check out the cool Maps feature. There are a few other applications installed on there by default, so have a play around with them yourself.

4. Installing software

Unfortunately, installing applications on the Android emulator is quite a long-winded affair. It's not that difficult, but it does involve tweaking a Windows system setting and working with the Windows terminal.

Environment variables

You first need to add the format for Android programs - .apk - as a variable in your Windows environment. Head to the Windows Control Panel, double-click the System icon and highlight the Advanced tab. Now click the Environment Variables button and click 'New'. In the 'Variable name' field type "PATH", and in the 'Variable value' field enter the route to the place you unpacked the SDK (in this case C:\Program Files\Android SDK). Confirm the changes.

Open the command prompt

Now let's install some software. Make sure the emulator is running (see above) and enter the Windows terminal by pressing Windows+R. Type "cmd" to launch the command prompt. Now you'll need to get to the "Tools" folder, which you can do by entering:

Accessing the Tools folder



cd Program Files

cd Android SDK

cd Tools

Now move the Android application you want to install (it should be an ".apk" file) to the 'Tools' folder within your Android SDK folder.  To install the app into the emulator we need to enter another command into the Windows terminal.

adb install programname.apk

(where programname is the name of the application you wish to install). Go back to the Android emulator and you should be able to launch the program by clicking on its icon. Have a look at the Go to Android site for some top software to try out.

Running apps in the Android emulator


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    [...] and do almost everything you would do on an android device, and you can download it a few places.  Softonic is a great software downloading site. Or you can just go to Googles official development page. I [...]

  • Jess |

    Hey I had some trouble once i was in the cmd prompt. And I've noticed that others have had this same issue so for my sake and the sake of anyone else reading this,...... I entered the variable path and opened cmd prompt. (In my case it was C:\Android\tools.) But, and this is where others are having the same problem, when I tried to open the Emulator, for one second it opens a cmd window but then closes and nothing else happens. Can anyone shed any light on that?

  • Jess |

    I might add what it says in the cmd prompt window is "cannot create data directory,..... please specify a writable directory with -datadir."

  • James Thornton |
    James Thornton

    Hi Jess, did you open the emulator before you entered the command console? You need to have the emulator open in order to install apps via the cmd prompt.

  • Jess |

    Yea but I wasn't able to get the emulator to run from the start it just opens that cmd window for a tenth of a second and closes

  • gohar aziz |
    gohar aziz

    im having a problem in the cmd, when it asks u "To install the app into the emulator we need to enter another command into the Windows terminal.

    adb install programname.apk" ...i did so ..but the android file is not apk its jar(would that be a problem?) when i type it into the cmd prompt i gotta and error saying "failure [INSTALL_PARSE_FAILED_NO_CERTIFICATES]"

  • Paul Nicholls |
    Paul Nicholls

    Hi James, I'm also having trouble running the android emulator...

    I downloaded and extracted to g:\android-sdk\

    I then tried running the emulator (double-click) but a console flashed up very quickly and then disappeared.

    I tried running via command prompt, and it was then that I noticed that the emulator.exe seems to be wanting a .apk file to run in the first place...

    How do I get the emulator running even before I 'install' apps into it?

    cheers, Paul

  • Mr Mo |
    Mr Mo

    fimally got it to load looks like you need to in cmd prompt then use the -data switch mine was C:\android\tools\emulator.exe -data system

    Hope it helps Mr Mo

  • arian |

    thx for the fix Mr Mo. confirmed to work

  • andy |

    for installation for people not good with pc put this in search bar he walks through step by step makes it so simple http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mp2q_8T-jMo&feature=PlayList&p=709B96E4F3CBD511&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=47

  • Bernice |

    I am trying to run the emulator on a Vista. With double clicking, a window opens up but closes after a few seconds. Any feedback is greatly appreciated

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  • Jonah |

    Ive tryed to get to enviroment variables on vist but I cant find it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jonah |

    I ment vista

  • Kevin |

    To run the emulator on Windows use the .bat (batch file) instead of the .exe

  • Drapp |

    I also get cmd prompt for a breif second before closing itself. I installed using all the steps. I am unable to open emulator. PLease advise. Thanks.

  • mbi |

    There is free software called youwave android which you can download with the same functions but a lot less hassle.

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